'My team always comes first, selection and other aspects will take care of itself', Abhimanyu Easwaran opens up on his success mantra (Exclusive)
At the start of 2019, Bengal were staring down the barrel against Delhi. A 322-run mountain stood in front of the eastern state against a side that had convincingly dumped them out of the Ranji Trophy a year prior. Thus, apart from the sheer number of runs Bengal needed to get, they were also fighting a psychological demon capable of throwing a spoke in their wheel.
Yet, on that day, a certain Abhimanyu Easwaran conjured a magical knock, an unbeaten innings of 183 to guide his team home and effectively end Delhi’s pursuit of a knock-out berth, thereby rubbing salt into the latter’s wounds. The opener had seemingly come off age courtesy his efforts in January but for the keen observers of Indian cricket, the right-handed batsman had only just strengthened a burgeoning reputation.
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Looking back on his masterful ton in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Abhimanyu talked about how the circumstances made the hundred even more special. He said,
In that match, the second innings had become very crucial and it was important for our qualification hopes. Thus, I really enjoyed that innings, considering it came in a tough situation.
Over his domestic career though, Abhimanyu has carved a bit of a niche for himself courtesy his ability to come up trumps in the second innings of games, a trait not many cricketers are able to boast of. Remarking on what enables him to stand strong in the face of such adversity, he quipped,
Earlier, I didn’t concentrate on the fitness aspect during my younger days as a cricketer. However, as I grew older, I began to understand its significance. And, that becomes more vital in the second innings, especially after fielding in the slips or short-leg for more than hundred overs. At that juncture, the increased fitness levels help you concentrate and allow you to give a better account of yourself.
Subsequently, Abhimanyu also delved a little deeper into his modus operandi and his preparation before games. And, unsurprisingly, he provided an answer that threw further light on his ability to play substantial innings. He said,
The key for me is to plan according to the bowlers I am going to face. A bit of preparation before the game is always my mantra and then I let my instincts take over on the field. Additionally, I like to concentrate on the mental aspects as those help me the most when I try to buckle down and play long knocks.
Unfortunately, though, his brilliance in the Ranji Trophy, the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy hasn’t been rewarded so far, majorly due to the embarrassment of riches India enjoy in the batting department.
However, he felt that that was the last thing on his mind whenever he took the field. Though he admitted that playing for India was his ultimate dream, he also stressed on how living in the moment and grabbing whatever chance comes one’s way is paramount, considering not many are lucky enough to be handed too many opportunities.
Moreover, he has been trying his utmost to disprove an unfounded notion, one which talks about him being only a red-ball cricketer. Despite several people viewing him through such a lens, he possesses a healthy average of 36.18 and 137.71 in T20s. When quizzed about the IPL, he replied,
The IPL is perhaps the best tournament in the world but I don’t want to listen to what other people say about my game. I want to concentrate on my strengths today and hopefully, I’ll land a contract one day. My mother would especially be happy if Kolkata Knight Riders pick me up though. She’s a huge Shahrukh Khan fan.
And, the aforementioned mind-set of being in the moment is largely down to Abhimanyu’s upbringing as a cricketer where his father kept taking his protégé to various locations in order to narrow down on the most suitable environment, thereby making him understand the seriousness of making the best of the resources one has at one’s disposal without thinking too far ahead.
I travelled to Delhi to play matches as Dehradun didn’t have affiliation at that time. So we explored a lot of places with my father enquiring what would be the best place for me to fulfil my cricketing potential. Eventually, we singled out Bengal, courtesy its structure for the development of young cricketers and the numerous tournaments I would get to be a part of. I played a local tournament when I was 11 and I scored runs. Then, I played the U-16 competition when I was just 14. And, since then, I’ve never looked elsewhere.
Elaborating further on the formative stages of his cricketing career, he talked about the enormous role his coaches played. He opened up on how Junaid Anjum was his first coach in Dehradun before he worked with Rajdeep Kalsi. Thereafter, found a safe haven in Manoj Rawat and Ravi Negi (both coaches at Abhimanyu’s father’s academy). When he moved to Kolkata, he stayed with N Sengupta as the latter took him to several tournaments in and around the city.
However, he reserved a special mention for Apurva Desai, a person who is still Abhimanyu’s biggest influence. The Bengal cricketer remarked how he still converses with Desai before each game and series, where the pair analyse the latter’s batting and consequently, evolve mechanisms to equip the right-hander better.
And, those enhancements have been dished out expertly by Abhimanyu over the past few seasons as he has plundered runs for fun in the domestic circuit. Yet, that didn’t stop him from alluding to the importance the collective enjoys over the individual. He remarked,
For me, the team always comes first and the other elements such as my individual runs or my selection into the national team can take a back seat. If my team does well, then obviously my displays would get noticed but my runs won’t matter if my side doesn’t win.
Thus, through an enlightening conversation, Abhimanyu had highlighted the qualities that set him apart and how his journey had enabled him to shape his path as a cricketer of substance.
After all, there aren’t many cricketers who can hold to candle to the opener’s current domestic numbers, across all formats. And, one reckons there would be fewer who relish scenarios where the side’s back is against the wall, thereby allowing the comeback to paint an even more picturesque portrait.
Though an India call-up hasn’t yet come to fruition, the cricketing folks can probably take a leaf out of Abhimanyu’s book and not endure sleepless nights over it. Rather, they should try and savour a truly wonderful batsman in his pomp.